AAU, Highlights the ACE Impact Project’s Mid-Term Review Results

The Association of African Universities, the Regional Facilitation Unit for the ACE Impact Project Highlights the Project’s Mid-Term Review Results

The 7th ACE Impact Regional Workshop being hosted in Cotonou, Benin from 14-17 June 2022 featured nine plenary sessions, four parallel sessions and three performance clinics. Close to 300 ACE Impact project stakeholders convened to review the performance of the project, network and reconnect physically for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first plenary session on Tuesday 14th June 2022 focused on receiving four presentations that provided an overall update on the progress and status of the ACE Impact Project and highlighted the results from the ongoing mid-term review (MTR) of the project. This session was chaired by Professor Salifu Mohammed who is one of the Project’s Steering Committee members and the Executive Secretary of the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission.

The four presentations were from Dr. Sylvia Mkandawire, the Project Manager of the ACE Impact Project; Mrs. Adeline Addy, the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Specialist; Ms. Maud Kouadio-IV, the Education Consultant and ACE core team member with the World Bank and Professor Joseph Mutale, one of the Subject Matter Experts supporting the Centres of Excellence.

Regional Facilitating Unit (RFU) Key Project Updates by Dr Sylvia Mkandawire

Dr. Sylvia Mkandawire provided overall project updates, key highlights of each project component, areas needing significant attention and concluded by reflecting on the challenges and opportunities.

The project has realized impressive results that include 3,524 research publications, 4,766 internships and 22,161 enrolled students to date. A total of USD 86.5 million has been mobilized by the Centres as external and additional revenue.  The highest research publications were produced in the STEM theme (42%), the highest number of financial resources were raised from grants (75%), and the private sector provided 51% of the internship places for ACE Impact students. The project has exceeded its set targets of enrolling and training PhD and MSc students – by 19% and 8% respectively. A total of 7,214 females (33% of total number of students) have been enrolled as post-graduate students since the project’s inception in 2019 and this is in line with the project’s thrust of increasing the number of women enrolled in post-graduate training programs. As indicated in the presentation, some of these figures are yet to be independently verified.

To support effective implementation of the ACE Impact project, some countries, such as Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, and The Gambia, have established National Facilitation Units (NFU). Where NFU’s exist, it is evident that those projects are better tracked and supported by their governments. NFU’s also support the procurement of equipment for the Centres, communication to increase project visibility, capacity building for financial management, verification and accreditation of programmes, land acquisition, and recruitment of national subject matter experts among others.

During this reporting period (October 2021 – May 2022), the RFU provided implementation support to the Centres by organizing fourteen in-person missions, twenty virtual missions and preparing the Centres for the mid-term review process. The lessons garnered were that there was need for more in-person implementation support missions to the Centres, prioritization of pending procurements by the Centres, support for the Centres’ accelerated implementation plans and a need for the Centres to strengthen the visibility of their programs and research.

The development impact of the Centres is demonstrated through the publication of key research breakthroughs, such as genetic diversity of SARS-CoV2 infections in Ghana; lessons for the world concerning COVID-19 in Africa; use of drones for data collection; development of solar-powered irrigation system curricula; development of new early growth groundnut seeds for African farmers; and a software application to improve transport and mobility in Ghana. Excellence in leadership continued to be demonstrated through eight prestigious awards won by both Centres’ faculty and students. For example, Ms Atut Chantal Tiku, a student from WACWISA in Ghana won the 2021 University for Development Studies Vice Chancellor’s Business Innovation Award​.

The ACE Impact Project places emphasis on partnerships as a method of building capacities, mobilizing resources, and sustaining the project’s goals. Four partnerships were highlighted by Dr. Sylvia Mkandawire, and these include the collaboration with IBM for Student Internships at IBM’s research laboratories in Kenya and South Africa; the EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne) / AAU Centers of Competence in Digital Education (C-CoDE) initiative which is transforming digital education in Africa; The PARTNER IRD​ (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement) initiative that supports four thematic networks, namely, WANIDA, NET-WATER, DSTN and RAMR2D; and the ELSEVIER​ partnership for Capacity Building in Scientific Writing and Publications​.

With support from the World Bank, the RFU has launched an innovative Research Awards initiative called the ACE Impact Students’ Innovative Awards (SIRA). SIRA aims to promote the production of innovative and impactful knowledge through research​; and the generation of scientific and intellectual tangibles that provide solutions to Africa’s problems in the most critical priority areas of development. Let the maximum fitness of vacaville, California, personal trainers develop a fitness plan just for you. Fifteen (15) best research projects will be competitively selected and awarded in five ACE Impact thematic areas.  Students enrolled in an ACE Impact supported programme at the time of a SIRA call for applications are eligible to participate.

It was highlighted that the challenges faced by the Centres also present opportunities for project implementation redesign. The main challenges faced by the ACE Impact Project, as reported are listed below.

  1. There were disruptive and recurrent strikes and coup d’états at some ACE Impact institutions and countries, leading to delays of some scheduled activities related to Centre workplans and activities.​
  2. Procurement activities at the national level continued to delay the project activities of some Centres.
  3. The centres participating in the C-CoDE Initiative experienced challenges in the procurement of equipment given that these were not readily available in their home countries and needed to be outsourced from manufacturers abroad. ​
  4. There were difficulties in adhering to timelines for the submission of documents by some Centres to the Regional Facilitating Unit mainly relating to Annual Workplans, DLR 5.3 (focused on innovation and entrepreneurship) and DLIs 2 (focused on Development Impact) and DLR 7 (focused on Institutional Impact). This also delayed the review processes and subsequently the implementation of related activities.​

Through the discussions and exchange of ideas during thematic performance clinics and parallel sessions at the ongoing regional workshop, solutions towards addressing the identified challenges will be garnered.  The ACE Impact project stakeholders remain committed towards the enhancement of quality education and research as well as harnessing skills to meet Africa’s development needs.

 

Written By: Ms. Nodumo Dhlamini, Director ICT Services, Communications and Knowledge Management at AAU

Innovative Societies Have Stable Economic Growth – Dr. Danica Ramljak

A senior consultant and expert in entrepreneurship and innovation at the World Bank, Dr. Danica Ramljak underscored the critical role innovation and entrepreneurship play in advancing the economic growth of countries.  Speaking during the session on entrepreneurship and innovation, at the 7th ACE Impact regional workshop held in Cotonou Benin, she called on higher education institutions to strengthen their efforts in the areas of technology transfer, development of institutional innovation and the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

The session broadly featured an interactive discussion on how the 53 Centres of Excellence are progressing with entrepreneurship and innovation, building on lessons from both within and outside the African continent.

 

The Disbursement Linked Indicator (DLI) 5.3 – Key Observations and Next Steps

Making a presentation on DLI 5.3 which focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship, Dr. Danica Ramljak took participants through the key targets of the implementation plan, including a focus on innovation-oriented cooperation in research infrastructures and collaboration with the private sector. Centres had earlier been given opportunities to develop implementation plans on how to accomplish the activities related to innovation and entrepreneurship as part of DLI5.3. Dr. Danika used the opportunity to provide feedback to the Centres on their applications.

She called on the centres to pay special attention to the established criteria for the review process of applications under this indicator, which included – quality background description of institutional and innovation ecosystems. Others included justification for the proposed activity and a detailed explanation of the proposed implementation plan with specific descriptions of each activity, highlighting the goals, timelines and person (s) responsible.  The verification criteria and budget as well as the justification for the budget were said to be part of the criteria.

Commenting on the general results from the review process, it was mentioned that the quality of applications significantly differed, in ways which cannot be attributed to the country of origin or scientific research interest areas of the Centres. The number of improved resubmissions were also noted to have been significantly increased during the resubmission stage. Again, it was observed that the Centres were at different levels in terms of institutional innovation ecosystem.

Participants were reminded of the key roles of higher education in the areas of knowledge generation, training of skilled human resource and the development of technology that can be transferred to industry among others.  Based on these roles, including others such as undertaking research for industry and the development of competitive products, the session participants were encouraged to advocate and engage the authorities in their institutions and at the country levels to prioritise innovation.

They were also encouraged to measure and determine the technology readiness level of their institutions for innovation and commercialisation as this was an important step towards planning and putting measures in place to foster the readiness of their systems for full scale deployment.

Key among the recommendations towards becoming fully blown entrepreneurial and innovative institutions, the importance of having appropriate Science Technology Innovation (STI) policies in place and ensuring its effective implementation was underscored. Other recommendations outlined included – ensuring institutional capacity building for STI management and governance, the establishment of efficient models for knowledge transfer and the provision of institutional capacity building. It was also recommended that centres define their research and development priorities, develop a roadmap for research infrastructure and provide sustainable support for innovation development.  Equally important to fostering innovation and entrepreneurial activities were the recommendations to attract the private sector to collaborate and invest in HEIs research and development (R&D), the need to strengthen international collaborations, a well as inform the general public about the importance of the Centres’ work.

Experience Sharing on Entrepreneurship and Innovation by Three Centres of Excellence – ACECoR, CERSA and OAU-OAK PARK

A high-level panel composed of Mr. Joshua Adotey from the Africa Centre of Excellence in Coastal Resilience (ACECoR), Ghana, Prof. Adesola Aderounmu from OAU ICT-Driven Knowledge Park, Nigeria and Dr. Edoh representing the Regional Center of Excellence on Avian Sciences (CERSA), Togo discussed key issues and shared their experiences on how to excel and meet the requirements of DLI 5.3.

Speaking on the key challenges encountered in their institutions’ ecosystems which inhibit their work in this area, CERSA identified the lack of a technology transfer office to facilitate their commercialization process, and the low marketing of results generated by the researchers.  For ACECoR, there was the lack of entrepreneurship policies at the initial stage of developing the framework for the DLI. Limited engagement and collaboration between industry and the university was also a challenge, however this has been improved drastically and currently industry members are engaged closely in various ways, including in remodeling some programmes and courses.  ACECoR highlighted how the support from university authorities, especially the vice-chancellor helped them overcome some of their challenges, leading to the strengthening of their technology office.

For OAU-OAK PARK, the focus on developing the skills of students had been prime on their agenda, however the development of IT entrepreneurs had not been prioritized, thus they identified the need to train the youth in this area for wealth creation and capacity development among others.  Having done all these however, the key challenge of their inability to attract investors to fund the innovations and products including spin off institutions, remains.  Another challenge faced related to intellectual property rights issues which come up as they partner with industry in generating some innovations.  Participants were told that the centre has put in place pragmatic measures to overcome these challenges, including training students to develop business plans, providing seed funding for the innovations, engaging the University’s intellectual property rights office from the start of discussions with industry players.

Speaking on how to be successful in innovation, the experienced panelists advised centres to strengthen their engagement with the private sector, implement measures to motivate their researchers, and to develop and implement institutional manuals and procedures to guide various processes. Again, the Centres were encouraged to ensure that there is a fully functional entrepreneurial ecosystem which has people with the right skills, a pool of investors supporting their research work, a ready market to uptake developed innovations and the sensitisation of stakeholders to embrace entrepreneurship. Additionally, commitment from institutional authorities toward innovation and entrepreneurship was said to be key, just like having an Intellectual Property Technology Transfer Office (IPPTO) and a sustainability plan.

Centre’s Impact on University Systems

Tackling the discussion on how Centre’s activities impact and strengthen the university system, numerous contributions were shared.  Among these, ACECoR for instance is engaging the University’s Directorate of Research, Innovation and Consultancy (DRIC) in operationalising the formulation on Innovation, thereby building capacity in the team.  It is also creating an enabling environment for the service incubation centre of the institution.

Similarly, OAU- OAK is supporting capacity building of the institution’s Business Resource Centre, linking this centre to industry players and also collaborating with them to organise technology focused conferences. Again, some spin off companies from the centre’s activities now serve as places for practical skill acquisition for the University’s students, through internships.

 

Leveraging ACE Impact Project to strengthen innovation and entrepreneurship in African HEIs

Following a question-and-answer session from participants, Dr. Danica Ramljak wrapped up the session by calling on the centres to leverage the opportunity presented by the project to improve their institutions’ innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.  Centres were encouraged to for instance draw on the project to beef up capacity in their technology transfer offices, if they are understaffed.  They were urged to strengthen partnerships among themselves as centres and with other international partners, advocate for the development and implementation of Intellectual Property Policies among others.

Finally, the centres of excellence were called upon to lobby and engage their ministries and universities to recognise innovation and entrepreneurship activities of researchers as part of career progress and promotion indicators, and equally work hard to bring in money from other external sources to support innovation and entrepreneurship as these are key ingredients to economic growth of countries across the continent.

 

Written By: Mrs. Felicia Nkrumah Kuagbedzi, Senior Communications and Publications Officer, AAU

Observations and Recommendations by the ACE Impact Subject Matter Experts

One key group of stakeholders present at the 7th ACE Impact Regional Workshop was the Subject Matter Experts. As part of the strategy to effectively implement the ACE Impact for Development Project, the Regional Facilitation Unit (RFU) – the AAU, has identified and is coordinating a team of subject matter Experts who contribute to the operational and technical implementation support and supervision of the ACE Impact Centers. These independent Experts are selected based on their academic and/or disciplinary expertise relative to the ACE Impact Centers, and their international experience in higher education and/or university leadership. Experts are appointed to support specific Centers and to contribute to the ACE Impact project.

Each ACE Impact Center has been assigned a primary Expert who provides implementation support and supervision to the Center. The Experts are supporting and guiding the ACE Impact Centers so that they attain scientific excellence, quality, relevance, and impact. Each Expert provides his/her inputs in close coordination and guidance from the ACE Impact RFU.

The key tasks of the subject matter experts include:

  1. Reviewing and providing expert insight and advice on the ACE Impact Centers’ implementation plans
  2. Reviewing and providing expert insight and advice on the ACE Impact Centers’ annual work plans.
  3. Mentoring the ACE Impact Centers as needed.
  4. Undertaking supervision and implementation Centre support visits which may either be in-person or virtual.
  5. Reviewing the research publications of the ACE Impact Centers to ensure compliance with ACE Impact objectives.
  6. Supporting the ACE Impact Centers by connecting them to potential university and industry partners, and potential funding opportunities.
  7. Reporting supervision findings to the Project Steering Committee during its Meetings.
  8. Participating in the ACE Impact Regional Workshops.
  9. Liaising with the RFU on any key factors that may hinder the success of Centers or the ACE Impact project.
  10. Providing ongoing advice and support to the RFU and the World Bank on the ACE Impact project.

Professor Joseph Mutale represented the subject matter experts on Tuesday 14th June 2022 to provide feedback from the subject matter experts to the ACE Impact Centres. He congratulated all the Centres for sustaining performance at the peak of the difficult Covid 19-season and for navigating new challenges by developing innovative ways to deliver education. He acknowledged that the Centres had adopted digital and blended learning methods to address the challenges posed by the Covid 19 era. He also stressed that as subject matter experts they were confident that the Centres would successfully address all their future challenges effectively, having learnt some lessons and gained experience over this period.

Professor Mutale shared key observations and recommendations for the Centres to consider towards ensuring the timely delivery of the project’s milestones. He advised that attention needed to be paid to the annual work plans and project management by assigning dedicated personnel to support these areas. New ACE Impact Centres were advised to start the self-evaluation processes early enough, to give them ample time to prepare towards international accreditation of their programs. It was indicated, that the research strategies for the Centres must clarify priorities, objectives, and available resources to support research. Centres were advised to effectively use their sectoral advisory boards and international scientific committees to strengthen their research strategies. Again, effective communication at all levels, especially with students, was singled out as extremely important for the effective implementation of the project. Enhancing regional dimensions in terms of internships, research, publications, and student recruitment was said to be a key way of ensuring the project’s success.

It was mentioned that the success of the ACE Impact project depends on the effective involvement of all team members and therefore the Centre leaders need to pay attention to this aspect. Increased engagement of university leadership to facilitate procurement and to address the causes of underspending were singled out as being equally important.

In conclusion, Professor Mutale called on the Centres to seize the opportunity of meeting physically for the first time after the COVID-19 outbreak to reconnect, exchange ideas and look for solutions to push the project forward. He stressed that the next six months were critical for the achievement of time bound project results. He pledged the commitment of all the subject matter experts to “remain available and committed to work” with all the ACE Impact Centres to enable them achieve the project objectives.

 

Written By: Ms Nodumo Dhlamini, Director – ICT Services, Communications and Knowledge Management at AAU

 

Centres of Excellence Explore More Effective Ways to Accelerate Development Impact in the Region

To propel the overarching goal of the Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE Impact), and to ensure that the research outputs of higher education institutions  address national and regional challenges, the Disbursement Linked Indicator (DLI 2) was instituted.  The DLI2 indicator measures the development impact that Centres are having, both nationally and regionally in terms of the extent of their contribution to their respective sectors/industries. It supports the advancement of applied research, training of quality post graduates, industry linkages and innovativeness aimed at tackling societal challenges.  Its evaluation criteria include the number of student internships recorded by a centre, number of graduates hired in the sector, number of short courses delivered in response to sectoral stakeholder requests and an evaluation of Sectoral Advisory Board annual reports, as well as feedback obtained from interviews with sectoral stakeholders. The DLI 2, is coordinated by Technopolis in close collaboration with the Regional Facilitation Unit -the Association of African Universities and the World Bank.

 

At the ongoing 7th ACE Impact Regional Workshop, a session on Development Impact was held to provide the opportunity for an interactive discussion on how the centres are progressing towards achieving development impact in line with the project objectives. Chaired by Dr. Joshua Atah, the Focal Member for Nigeria, the session benefited from panel discussions involving Prof. Gordon Awandare from the West Africa Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogen (WACCBIP), Prof. Emenike Ejiogu, Center leader for Africa Center of Excellence for Sustainable Power and Energy Development (ACE_SPED) and Prof. Daouda Mama, Center leader for the Africa Center of Excellence for Water and Sanitation (C2EA).

A presentation by the main speaker, Ms. Anneloes de Ruiter, a Senior Consultant with the Technopolis Group, noted that the primary goal of the ACE Impact project to enhance regional capacity and to produce high-quality research for sustainable solutions to solving the challenges within the region, has heightened the need to assess the key and long-term effects of centres achievements and activities. She provided insights to observations made during the verification of centres for the DLI 2 prior to the 7th regional workshop. She emphasized that some centres have well-established academic and industry connections; distinct research, innovation, and education policies; adaptable and flexible responses to the pandemic as well as excellent understanding of the added value and positioning in the international/ regional/national research landscape. She further added that using existing opportunities, the ACEs must fully engage their alumni and include grooming them to serve as ambassadors, future faculty, and collaborators. She encouraged centres to forge partnerships for collaborative efforts toward making effective impact.

Highlighting WACCBIP’s strategy for public and community engagement, Prof. Awandare explained that the centre prioritized the establishment of a communication and public engagement unit to facilitate research communication and interactions with the public and the media. He noted that the unit has been a major game-changer in enhancing the centre’s visibility. Some key activities have included communicating complex research outputs in simple and relatable language that is easily digestible by the public. In addition, the unit has been at the forefront of organizing fora, press engagements and community outreach programs aimed at publicizing the centre’s research outputs.

Speaking on impact, Prof. Ejiogu noted that ACE-SPED’s impact has focused on its immediate environment- the university. He emphasized the centre’s efforts to tackle power challenges at the University of Nsukka, Nigeria through extensive research and prudent measures. He added that the centre has leveraged partnerships with local power and energy companies to access internship opportunities for students. In terms of regional partnerships, ACE-SPED had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the West Africa Power Pool – a specialized agency of ECOWAS targeting the generation of a self-reliant regional power market which delivers abundant affordable electricity to all member states.

Prof. Mama emphasized C2EA’s partnerships with both the public and private sectors. He stated that the centre’s partnership with the Water Management Authority in Benin enables them to conduct research and share its findings to advise policymakers on water and sanitation.

Additionally, panel members also shared challenges faced by their centres in addressing developmental challenges. Key areas of concern were related to procurement delays, financial and administrative bureaucracies, lack of effective policies to facilitate scientific research and the timely acquisition of science equipment.

Centres were advised by Ms. De Ruiter to ensure that their activities are strategically executed to provide a sustainable long-term impact that transcends the academic community. In addition, centres were encouraged by the panel members to invest in high-quality staff, foster regional and international collaborations and empower young people in their teams as well as maximize the potential of their  strengths to achieve their goals.

In his closing remarks, the Chair entreated centres to put in place efficient measures for project sustainability beyond the World Bank funding.

 

Written By: Millicent Afriyie Kyei, ACE Impact Communications Officer

High Level 7th Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence Regional Workshop kicks off at Palais des Congrès, Cotonou, Benin – Minister of Higher Education formally opens the workshop

A four-day higher education regional workshop, which brought together approximately 300 higher education stakeholders from Africa and beyond, was held in Cotonou, Benin. The workshop was hosted by the Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE Impact) Project from 14 -17, June 2022.

In attendance were team members from the 53 centres of excellence from the 11 participating African Countries, Project teams from the World Bank, French Development Agency, and the Association of African Universities, Subject Matter Experts, Vice Chancellors, Students, Industry partners and other various higher education stakeholders.

The workshop created the dynamic platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue and an opportunity for sharing global best practices, provision of implementation support and the discussion of practical mechanisms to ensure sustainability of the project beyond its stipulated lifespan. It also provided the chance for collaborative regional knowledge sharing on all the thematic subject areas of the project, as well as to assess the results from the project’s mid-term review process.

ACE Impact is a World Bank initiative in collaboration with governments of 11 participating African countries to support higher education institutions specializing in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Environment, Agriculture, applied Social Sciences / Education and Health. It is widely recognised as a critical and important project which is improving the capacity of Africa’s higher education institutions.

The 7th ACE Impact workshop started on a high note with an opening ceremony which featured key remarks from the Secretary General of the Association of African Universities – Prof. Olusola Oyewole; the Cotonou Director of the French Development Agency, Mr. Jerome Bertrand-Hardy, and the World Bank Country Manager, Mr. Atou Seck.

Formally opening the workshop, the Minister of Education for Benin, Madame Eleonore Yayi Ladekan spoke highly about the importance of the ACE Impact project to Africa’s higher education system and recognised the efforts of the project team and all participating centres and countries.  She highlighted various reforms launched by the Republic of Benin aimed at impacting all stakeholders in the education pipeline – right from the learners/students to the national level and final beneficiaries.  She further underscored the quality of interventions and key activities under the project – including internships, training of students, and innovative research which she said are all important in facilitating knowledge generation and usage, as well as ensuring that excellence transcends the functions of Africa’s Higher Education institution.

The 7th ACE Impact workshop has a diverse agenda and focus areas to be discussed at plenary, breakout sessions and performance clinics. The event also featured a special poster presentation session which created the platform for students to present their innovative research to the African higher education stakeholders present at the workshop.  Prior to the Workshop, the project began hosting Country Round Table sessions, which presented the opportunity for country specific discussions related to the mid-term review process. Again, the Project Steering Committee (PSC) meeting was held on 13th June 2022, also in Cotonou, Benin.  The PSC is a high-level policy making committee comprised of representatives of African government from the 11 participating countries, the World Bank, French Development Agency and the Association of African Universities.

A press conference was also hosted just before the opening ceremony on June 14, creating the platform for the media to engage the key project team on critical issues in Africa’s Higher Education, for the information of the wider African populace.

Discussions for the remaining three days (June 15-17, 2022) focused on forging the way forward in relation to specific project priority areas including – Digital Transformation, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Gender and Development Impact among others.

 

Written By: Mrs. Felicia Kuagbedzi, Senior Communications Officer, AAU

ACENTDFB Research Discovers Prevalence of Dengue in Northern Nigeria

Written By Murrjanatu Abba

Contrary to previous studies on the commonality of Dengue fever in some parts of Nigeria, a study by a Master’s degree student of the Africa Center of Excellence for Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology, (ACENTDFB) hosted by the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria Daniel Thakuma Tizhe found the presence of Dengue infection, as well as Dengue and Malaria co-infections with an overall sero-prevalence of 19.4% in Adamawa State. The study was supervised by Professor Jacob Kwaga and Dr. Grace Kia revealing that only Dengue virus serotype 1 isolates were found to be in circulation.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection that occurs in tropical and subtropical areas of the world such as Africa and Asia. The virus is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected female mosquitoes. The infection causes flu-like illness, and occasionally develops into a potentially lethal complication called Severe Dengue. The global incidence of Dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades and about half of the world’s population is now at risk. There is no specific treatment for dengue/severe dengue, but early detection and access to proper medical care lowers fatality rates from more than 20% to less than 1%. Dengue prevention and control depends on effective vector control measures. The control and management of Dengue remains the primary priority of public healthcare institutions in  many endemic countries.

A population-based survey was conducted in healthcare facilities in Adamawa State, Nigeria to determine the occurrence of dengue fever based on ELISA serological test, and the serotypes of the virus in circulation, using the highly sensitive Real-Time PCR technique.

Prior to this study, dengue had not been reported in the study location, but this survey found dengue infection, as well as dengue and malaria co-infections, across the study locations with an overall sero-prevalence of 19.4%. Surprisingly only Dengue virus serotype 1 isolates were found to be in circulation.

Based on the study’s findings, it was recommended that public healthcare professionals should consider other causes of febrile illnesses hence the need to conduct laboratory diagnosis to determine the possible causes of the infection.

ACEGID (Nigeria) Trains 100+ Scientists from Over 30 African Countries in One Year

Written By Mr. Fikayo Oyewale

In the last year, the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) trained over 100 African scientists from more than 30 countries in next-generation sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens. This is part of the centre’s effort towards building genomics capacity across Africa. The workshops were held in-country, at ACEGID, Redeemer’s University, Ede, Nigeria, and at partner institutions in Cote D’Ivoire, Rwanda, Cameroon and Seychelles. The participants were staff of public health institutions drawn from countries such as Tunisia, Benin Republic, Togo, Liberia, Guinea, Djibouti, and other African countries. Participants receive hands-on sequencing and bioinformatics training facilitated by ACEGID’s pool of young doctoral and research fellows. These scientists demonstrated passion about sharing their expertise with others.

 

ACEGID was founded in 2014 with initial funding from the World Bank (over US$13 million including funds from the ACE Impact project), as one of the centres of excellence aimed at developing relevant human capacity to address Africa’s challenges through research and innovation. The centre continues to lead innovations in using genomics for surveillance, characterization and diagnosis of infectious diseases as well as for vaccine and drug development. The centre’s education and research missions is fused into a robust capacity building system targeted at young African scientists. ACEGID’s Director, Prof Christian Happi, discussed the rationale for the centre’s drive for capacity building on the continent and remarked saying: “We know that Africa has lots of pathogens that have pandemic potential. I think it is natural for Africa to be in the vanguard. Building capacity will enable Africa to be at the forefront of genomic surveillance, pandemic pre-emption and response” .

Scientists in public health institutions, who are responsible for their countries’ sequencing activities participated in the workshops. The participants expressed their thoughts about their experiences. “Frankly speaking, I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude for what you did for us. You took us from almost zero to a good level. Personally, I am very thankful and I wish to see you again,” said Jean Shimirwa, a participant in the training held at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Kigali, Rwanda.

Anissa Chouikha, Associate Professor at the Laboratory of Clinical Virology, Pasteur Institute of Tunis, said “This training is important to me because I am a virologist. It will help me monitor new variants and strains that are circulating in my country.” In recognition of the training and research efforts, ACEGID was recently awarded the Al-Sumait Prize for African Development for its continental capacity building effort, among others.

The ACE Impact Project to hold its 7th Regional Workshop Physically

The Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE Impact) will have its 7th biannual Regional Workshop in Benin from June 13th to 17th, 2022.

The regional workshop is expected to bring together close to 500 participants, including the fifty-three (53) Centres of Excellence and key stakeholders, government representatives from participating countries, Vice Chancellors, representatives from the higher education sector, the private sector, policy think tanks, and the project’s partners, such as the World Bank, the French Development Agency, and the Association of African Universities.

The workshop will engage high-level discussions on ways in which higher education on the continent can be propelled, in addition to assessing  the project’s achievements so far.

During the pandemic, the project held two annual workshops virtually to adhere to global COVID regulations and guidelines. The upcoming 7th Biannual Regional Workshop will be the first physical meeting to be held by the ACE Impact project since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Garjila Danjuma tackles food fraud in Nigeria

Mr. Garjila Danjuma Gansheya, MSc student at ACEMFS

Written By Millicent Afriyie Kyei

Food fraud includes deliberate modifications made to the content of food products for economic gain. Food fraud endangers product authenticity, causes economic damage, and can cause risks to user wellbeing. Food Fraud and Authenticity is gradually becoming one of the most crucial and active food research fields globally. As such, it remains a critical issue in most countries on the African continent.

Mr. Garjila Danjuma Gansheya is a Master’s student at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Mycotoxin and Food Safety (ACEMFS), Federal University of Technology Minna, Nigeria. He is conducting an investigative study on Food Fraud Detection, Analysis, and Modifying Mitigating Techniques aimed at contributing to the practical steps laid down by the Nigerian government and other health research institutions to minimize food fraud.

He noted that “Food fraud has become an evolving challenge in the Nigerian health system that has led to the deaths of many people, especially the vulnerable groups that include mostly children, the elderly, and immune-compromised persons. Although food and health researchers, as well as regulatory bodies, have implemented a wide range of instrumental techniques such as chromatography, mass spectrometry, among others to monitor food fraud and authenticity, food fraud is still ongoing in diverse localities because the wide gap between the lab, consumer and the market is unabridged.” Therefore, as part of his study, Garjila seeks to provide innovative techniques in detecting and mitigating food fraud.

 

 

 

 

Garjila’s passion for food safety influenced his enrolment in ACEMFS where he believes that the centre’s ultra-modern equipment and dedicated faculty and research programs meet global standards, therefore the center is well-positioned to offer training which meets the demanding knowledge and expertise towards mitigating issues related to food safety in the region. To further create awareness on Food fraud and Authenticity, Mr. Gansheya in collaboration with some of his colleagues would carry out sensitization programs in the Taraba, Gombe, Adamawa, and Bauch communities in Northeastern Nigeria.

Garjila’s career goal is to become a Food Safety Scientist, “to proffer solutions to food-related issues and challenges, by building a path for safe food in Nigeria and Africa.” When advising young students and researchers, Garjila stresses the need for innovative and transformative research which responds to community and national challenges. He added that students should be “diligent at their research and never relent because the world awaits their inputs to make it a better place.”

Profiling the African Centre of Excellence for Biotechnical Innovations for the Elimination of Vector-borne Diseases (CEA/ITECH-MTV, Burkina Faso)

Written By Bunmi Ruth Odufala

The African Centre of Excellence for Biotechnical Innovations for the Elimination of Vector-borne Diseases (CEA/ITECH-MTV) hosted by the Nazi Boni University in Burkina Faso, is a center of excellence in biotechnology targeting vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, and trypanosomiasis. More specifically, gene drive technology and the use of hereditary endosymbionts such as the symbiotic bacteria Wolbachia will be developed. This centre provides a large pool of specialists in disease vectors through quality diploma training supported by an effective research program. The center brings together more than 17 leading technical institutions, each in its field at national, regional, and international level, to achieve its training and research objectives. A strategic partnership with the chamber of commerce representing the world of industry, sectoral ministries of health, education, and research including local communities is being established with the aim of promoting the absorption of graduates from the centre, as well as encouraging the creation of companies exploiting the results of the centre’s research. To this end, the spirit of entrepreneurship, the promotion of intellectual property, and risk-taking are instilled in learners early on, teaching them to capitalize on opportunities for innovation.

 CEA/ITECH-MTV is characterized by the following unique features:

  • Provides a large pool of human capital (more than 150 Masters, more than 50 PhDs and hundreds of short-term training courses for health and research professionals in the health sciences) through high-level quality training through access to an international standard research and teaching platform.
  • enhances the results of research and teaching by absorbing graduates into the host structures concerned by this technology, the scientific publication of the results, the implementation of the recommendations of the results of the research at the service of the sectoral ministries concerned and their subdivisions such as the national program to fight against malaria, the direction of the disease, the municipalities and hygiene services and;
  • promotes the creation of businesses by learners through the involvement of the national agency for the promotion of research results and innovations (ANVAR) and the chamber of commerce and industry representing the business world in the formatting curricula, monitoring results, and setting up special start-up funds for innovative ideas.

 

Our center is leading the research on entomopathogenic fungi such as Metarhizium in Africa. To make them more virulent, we have genetically modified them so that they can kill mosquitoes faster and in low concentration. We have isolated a few strains from the field that readily kill mosquitoes and our hope is to use them in the future to control malaria mosquitoes” – Prof. Abdoulaye Diabate, Centre Leader, CEA ITECH MTV.

He further noted that Malaria mosquitoes have become resistant to most conventional chemical insecticides and the centre’s work has shown that the Metarhizium can effectively kill mosquitoes that are resistant to chemical insecticides. Click and find leading contactor for storm drains Rochester. Its combination with these chemicals increases the efficacy of the chemicals. The fungus is easy to grow and, in the future, CEA ITECH MTV hopes to establish partnerships with local industries to locally produce the fungus. The centre still has a few open field tests to do in small and large scales to confirm efficacy in the real world before proceeding with the product.

At CEA ITECH-MTV, students are at the forefront of leading research.

Etienne Bilgo said: “We have been able to successfully evaluate the efficacy of this fungus against malaria vectors in a confined semi-natural environment. We are currently working to move on to field studies, but a lot of preliminary work is needed before we can move on to field studies, in particular, studies of the perceptions and commitment of the local populations. We also want to find the best formulations for the use of this fungus. Finally, we are also working on biosecurity issues”.

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